Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe [Gluten-Free]

Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells [Gluten-Free] | Savoring Today

There is something about ricotta cheese I simply adore. Maybe it’s the way it cradles companion flavors, softens the tone and enriches the texture of any dish.  Or maybe it is the way ricotta partners with a layer of sauce, balancing the nuance of herbs, acidic tomato, and meat. In these Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Shells it is the anchor, humbly filling the background so the spinach, garlic, and Parmesan capture your attention. Yes, the ricotta is why I love stuffed pasta shells—for all its cheesy goodness.

As much as the wonderful cheesiness of stuffed shells entices me, it has been awhile since we’ve had stuffed pasta shells because we primarily eat gluten-free pasta.  Over the last couple of years we have tried a few terrific gluten-free pastas, though that did mean going through some less than satisfying options too. Of those brands we enjoy, the only drawback is the limited shapes from which to choose. Lasagna, manicotti, or large shells are nearly impossible to find, so when I saw these large shells by Tinkyáda, it was time to resurrect my old recipe and give it a whirl.

Luckily we already had the perfect sauce to top the shells, there was one package of Bolognese still in the freezer from my last sauce marathon. (Thanks Mom, for doing the freezer inventory so I knew it was in there.)

Gluten-free pasta can be very delicate and easy to overcook, but that was not an issue with this pasta. In fact, it remained slightly underdone even after cooking for the full recommended time on the package and 45 minutes of baking time. I guess they mean it when they say, “The good texture of Tinkyáda can withstand quite a bit of over-cooking.” Overall, this gluten-free pasta was a satisfying substitute for regular large shell pasta and delivered on its cheese-filled duties. (For regional readers, I found these at Vitamin Cottage.)

Of course, you can use regular large pasta shells for this recipe by cooking it a couples minutes under the time given on the package—it finishes cooking in the oven.

In this particular recipe, I did not make my own ricotta, though homemade is preferred. If you would like to make your own, my blogger friend, John, at From The Bartolini Kitchens has an easy and straightforward recipe for ricotta. Otherwise, I recommend buying whole milk ricotta. Make sure the spinach is relatively dry and not watery, draining as needed, before adding to the cheese—you don’t want to water down the richness of the cheese filling. After all, the spinach is a nice addition, but the cheese is why we’re here to eat stuffed shells, right?!

This dish can be prepared in advance and frozen for a convenient weeknight dinner or portioned out in smaller single servings. To do so, place the filled shells on a wax paper lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer bag to keep until ready to use. When baking frozen shells, extend the foil-covered baking time by 20-25 minutes before topping with cheese to finish uncovered.  

Three classic Italian cheeses stuffed inside large shell brown rice pasta with spinach and dressed in meaty Bolognese needs little more than a nice medium-bodied red wine to make dinnertime the best part of the day. 

Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells [Gluten-Free]
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces large shell pasta -- gluten-free
  • salt for cooking water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic -- minced
  • ¼ cup green onion -- white and light green part finely chopped
  • 9 ounces fresh spinach -- wilted and chopped
  • 15 ounces ricotta cheese
  • 2 whole eggs -- beaten
  • 1 generous pinch nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese -- grated
  • 2 cups mozzarella cheese -- grated, divided into 1 cup measurements
  • ¼ cup fresh parsley -- finely chopped
  • 3 cups tomato or meat sauce
  • Parmesan cheese -- grated for serving
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 375° Prepare pasta according to package directions, adding 2-3 teaspoons of salt to the cooking water; drain and rinse with cold water. If using Tinkyada brown rice shells, cook for the maximum time recommended on the package. [If using regular wheat pasta shells, undercook by a couple of minutes.]
  2. To keep pasta from drying out, allow to sit briefly in cool water until ready to use.

  3. While pasta is cooking, add olive oil, garlic, green onions, and spinach to a large skillet and cook over medium heat until onion and garlic are softened and spinach is wilted. If spinach seems watery, transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain and cool. Once cooled slightly, coarsely chop spinach.

  4. In medium bowl, blend Ricotta, eggs, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until well mixed. Stir in parmesan and mozzarella cheeses until combined. Fold in parsley and chopped spinach with onions and garlic.
  5. Put cheese mixture in a resealable plastic bag (quart size may be easier to handle). Cut one bottom corner of the bag to create a quarter sized whole. Place corner of bag into the opening of the pasta shells and squeeze bag to fill pasta. (At this point the recipe can be frozen.)

  6. Arrange filled shells in a 13 × 9-inch baking dish.

  7. Spoon sauce over the shells and cover tightly with foil. Bake covered for 30 minutes, uncover and sprinkle with 1 cup of mozzarella cheese, and bake for 10-15 minutes until cheese is melted and beginning to brown.
Nutrition Information
Serving size: Serves 6

Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells [Gluten-Free] | Savoring Today

Note: While Tinkyáda does offer a wider variety of shapes for good rice pasta, it is not our preferred brand for more common pasta shapes like spaghetti, small shells, or spirals. Ancient Harvest Quinoa Pasta and Andean Dream are excellent gluten-free pasta products. Also, I was not compensated or provided product for this post, it is simply my opinion and I love passing along good things to my readers—I appreciate you and hope this is helpful.

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15 Responses to Cheese & Spinach Stuffed Pasta Shells Recipe [Gluten-Free]

  1. Tandy June 10, 2013 at 3:27 am #

    We had ricotta cheese in Italy which has made me rethink how I have used it at home. Thanks for sharing this recipe :)
    Tandy recently posted..Guest Post – DUCK!!!My Profile

  2. Maureen | Orgasmic Chef June 10, 2013 at 4:42 am #

    Stuffed shells were one of my son’s favorite meals so every time I see them I smile inside remembering how he could inhale a plate of these. Yours look so good!
    Maureen | Orgasmic Chef recently posted..Best Homemade Bread and Butter PicklesMy Profile

  3. Hotly Spiced June 10, 2013 at 5:51 am #

    I love stuffed pasta shells but I’ve never seen GF pasta shells. What a great idea. I love the look of this dish – what a great comfort meal xx
    Hotly Spiced recently posted..Whiskey Balls and…Christmas Eve TraumaMy Profile

  4. Nusrat Azim June 10, 2013 at 8:32 am #

    ‘Comfort food’ redefined :)

    Can’t say ‘NO’ to that type of pasta dish. Never !

    And the pictures are adorable !
    Nusrat Azim recently posted..Lentil Rice (Khichuri)My Profile

  5. john@kitchenriffs June 10, 2013 at 9:13 am #

    Stuffed shells are so satisfying! I haven’t made John’s ricotta recipe yet, but it’s on my list! These looks terrific. And thanks for the tips on which brands of gluten-free pastas to buy. Although we don’t have a problem with gluten, some of our friends do, so it’s nice to know what works. Good stuff – thanks.
    john@kitchenriffs recently posted..Poached SalmonMy Profile

  6. ChgoJohn June 10, 2013 at 8:13 pm #

    Aren’t stuffed shells the best? Your recipe is a good one, Judy. I bet they’re delicious. The fact that you’ve found good GF pasta is even better. When we make them, we make far too many for one dinner. Most are placed on baking sheets and frozen before being stored in freezer containers. Have a few dozen frozen in the freezer means a stuffed shell dinner is only minutes away. Thanks for your kind mention of my ricotta recipe. I hope you find time to make it one day. You’ll be surprised. :)
    ChgoJohn recently posted..Baked HaddockMy Profile

    • Judy Purcell June 11, 2013 at 6:17 am #

      Oh John, I have made your recipe, that’s why I can earnestly recommend it here. It was just on this particular day I ran far short of time. Having extra shells in the freezer for another quick meal is just one more reason to love stuffed shells, second to the the ricotta, of course. :)

  7. Gourmantine June 11, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    What a fabulous comfort dish, absolutely lovely, could have this every day!
    Gourmantine recently posted..Day 13: The fabulous frittataMy Profile

  8. Laurie June 11, 2013 at 11:20 am #

    These look really good! Sharing on the CSH facebook page and pinning.

  9. Deanna June 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    This a great recipe! Im featuring this and linking to it on my Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/SeductionInTheKitchen Your welcome to post your photos and links to the recipes there if you like.
    Deanna recently posted..Alfredo RiceMy Profile

    • Judy Purcell June 17, 2013 at 7:05 am #

      Deanna, thanks so much for featuring this post, really appreciate that!

  10. Raymund June 16, 2013 at 2:20 am #

    I love this so cheesy delight, look a those! I think I wont even need meat on those tomatoes would be enough
    Raymund recently posted..Filipino Style Liver SpreadMy Profile

  11. Alesha @ Full Time Mama June 18, 2013 at 10:06 pm #

    Wow, this looks SO good and healthy! Thank you so much for sharing with us at Delicious Dish Tuesday!! We’d love for you to come back this week and share another amazing recipe! :)

  12. Lizzy (Good Things) June 23, 2013 at 9:12 am #

    Lordy, now that looks good!!!!
    Lizzy (Good Things) recently posted..Chocolate avocado banana mousseMy Profile

  13. Jed Gray (sportsglutton) June 24, 2013 at 7:49 am #

    Oh boy Judy. These look like ooey gooey shells of delishiness!! Two servings please. :-)
    Jed Gray (sportsglutton) recently posted..Chicago Cubs: Jack Brickhouse Chicken (Brick Chicken)My Profile

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